WALLA WALLA -- Eight teenagers and young adults are accused of felony riot and assault in connection with a massive gang-related fight that erupted downtown in June.Terry McConn can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8319.
A team of about 10 area law enforcement officers nabbed all but one of the suspects this morning in a coordinated series of arrests on warrants that were issued Tuesday. The adults apprehended were booked into the County Jail on $50,000 bail. Youths were lodged at the Juvenile Justice Center.
Ramiro Zuniga Jr. was asleep when a sheriff's deputy knocked at the door of his residence in College Place at 8:45 a.m. Shirtless and wearing shorts, he opened his door and immediately was handcuffed and advised of his rights by Walla Walla police Detective Saul Reyna. Zuniga then was allowed to sit on his front porch as officers waited 15 minutes for his wife to return to care for their infant son.
Zuniga reportedly acknowledged to Reyna he was at the June 13 fight, but claimed he was one who had been assaulted.
Mario R. Aguayo wasn't home when officers arrived shortly after 9:30 a.m.
But his mother, Cari Aguayo, reached him by cell phone as she was standing in her front doorway. "You need to come now, please. Are you coming?" she pleaded as she held back tears. "They're going to take you to jail today."
He showed up about a half-hour later, was cuffed and transported.
Officials estimated between 60 and 100 people were involved in the brawl outside St. Patrick Catholic Church. At least three people -- including Aguayo, who was one of the instigators -- were injured, according to authorities.
Police have pieced together details of what they believe led to the fight, which broke out shortly before midnight as people were attending a graduation party.
A group of gang members started harassing three associates of a rival gang and calling on one of them to fight, according to a police report filed in court. Those being harassed -- identified as Aguayo, Oscar Palomino and Joaquin G. Ramirez -- left in a truck and allegedly armed themselves with weapons including a baseball bat, wooden club and shovels. Aguayo also called friends, asking them to meet at the church to fight, then the three drove to the home of Hector Gonzalez, police said.
All four then allegedly went to the church, Aguayo got out of the truck holding the bat "and the large fight erupted," according to the police report.
Aguayo is believed to have hit several people with the bat before he ran, was captured by rival gang members, and punched and kicked in the nearby Providence St. Mary Medical Center parking lot. Police identified Andres Torres as one of the men who allegedly assaulted Aguayo. Aguayo suffered a head injury and later was transferred to Kadlec Medical Center in Richland.
Zuniga and Antonio Carmona -- who are associates of Aguayo -- also are suspected of helping assault a victim in the melee. Ricardo Morales Jr. is accused of swinging a wooden club at a person.
Two other suspects have been charged in District Court with misdemeanor crimes. One was arrested this morning.
Officials said they are pleased the suspects were taken off the streets before the Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days gears up over the weekend. One woman suffered a serious eye injury in a gang-related stabbing at the fairgrounds during the Balloon Stampede in May.
Before this morning's arrests, officers attended a briefing at the Police Department to receive information about the suspects and where they likely would be located. "These are kids, but these are not like our children," Sgt. Randy Allessio said at the briefing. "These kids are dangerous and for whatever reason they seem to be a little more animated this year. So be careful.
"If this all works out, we could be taking a great step for the safety of our fair this year."
Following is information on the eight defendants charged in Superior Court:
Mario R. Aguayo, 18, 737 N. Seventh Ave. Charges -- riot and second-degree assault.
Oscar Palomino, 16, 708 N. Seventh Ave., Apt. C. Charges -- riot and accomplice to second-degree assault.
Joaquin G. Ramirez, 21, 1001 W. Chestnut St. Charges -- riot and accomplice to second-degree assault.
Hector Gonzalez, 20, 1045 St. John St. Charges -- riot and accomplice to second-degree assault.
Andres Torres, 18. Charges -- riot and second-degree assault. (Not in custody.) Warrant outstanding.
Ramiro M. Zuniga Jr., 23, 245 N.E. Elder Place, No. 2, College Place. Charges -- riot and accomplice to second-degree assault.
Antonio Carmona, 15, 308 N. Sixth Ave. Charges -- riot and accomplice to second-degree assault.
Ricardo Morales Jr., 19, 607 E. Sumach St. Charges -- riot and accomplice to second-degree assault.